Stone flowers that grow in cold places

Kim, I did it. I left. I’m on the bus from Inverness to Kinlochmore right now and I’m thinking all this really loudly in my head so I hope you’ll hear it. I’m wearing your hat, the grey woolly one, and the black dress. It feels right, like me leaving is a funeral for something and I need to have this connection to you right now.

The thing is, I still feel guilty sometimes. More than sometimes. I feel like I didn’t do enough to help you when you needed me, and if I’d done more maybe you’d still be here. I know it’s fucked up to think like that and all I’m doing’s torturing myself, but I can’t help it. I didn’t know enough about what was wrong. I didn’t see the signs of how bad it was getting until it was too late. Even then, I should’ve known more. I should’ve learned more.

I should’ve done more and I didn’t. I pushed you to go to that stupid doctor cause I thought it was the right thing to do. I honestly did. I thought he’d understand how bad you were feeling and he’d know it was serious. It took me a long time to stop being angry with him for making you feel like you should have been able to cope when you so clearly couldn’t.

I’ve been over and over all that in my head so many times and I keep ending up at the same place. I’m sorry and I love you and I miss you. You changed everything when you showed up in my life and you changed everything again when you left. You were the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me. For ages after you died it felt like there was a big, dark hole in my heart where you’d been, but it’s not there anymore. Not cause I’ve forgotten you or cause you don’t matter anymore, but cause the bit of my heart with your name on it is full of happy memories now instead of being empty. No matter what happens or where I go, I’ll always have those memories and you’ll always be with me. Always.

You used to tell me how smart I was and how brave I was, how I was the kind of person you could trust and depend on. You told me I was the only person you’d ever loved and you couldn’t imagine ever loving anyone else. You said all these amazing things and I was so bad at hearing them. It’s not that I didn’t believe you. It’s more that I thought you were wrong about me, that you must have been, that I couldn’t possibly be this incredible person you thought I was. I didn’t think I deserved you or that I deserved for you to love me as much as you did.

Over this last couple of months, I’ve tried so hard to be smart and brave the way you said I was. I tried to be the person you loved, to be as good as you thought I was. Maybe I fucked up with the way I left, leaving the cash and the note for Jackie, and the letter for Hugh. I feel the worst about Hugh. I know he’s a reprobate but he’s the best kind of reprobate. I honestly think he could get his shit together and go straight but it’s up to him, the way moving to Urcladach is up to me. I remember I was so nervous when I told you about what Hugh and I were doing, that it wasn’t actually removals in the traditional sense. I half expected you to walk out on me there and then, but you didn’t. I mean, you weren’t entirely OK about it, obviously, but you said it was my decision and you loved me. People have to make their own decisions and you can love them no matter what, if you want to. You don’t have to, but you can.

For the first time since you died, I have no anger left in me at all. I don’t think I’ll ever completely understand where you were at in your head when you killed yourself, because I’ve never been in that place and I think it’s a different place for everyone anyway. I can accept that you thought it was your only option though. You thought you were doing the right thing for me too. I read the note you left for me, before your parents took it. I know you felt like you couldn’t go on, like it was all too much for you. And I know you felt like you were a burden to me, but you weren’t. You could never have been. You were the opposite of a burden. You carried me in so many ways, you gave me so much hope, and it hurts in my soul that you didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t tell you enough. Maybe I should have told you I loved you more often. Maybe I should have done more to show it. I don’t know. Maybe maybe maybe. I could go over everything in my head a million times and it wouldn’t change a thing. You’d still be gone and I’d still be left here without you. There’s no point in trying to make sense of any of it because there’s no sense to make. There’s only sadness and love and whatever comes next.

Kim, I wish you could see this place with me. It’s stunning. It’s like a different world. In some ways, the landscape can be so harsh and unforgiving but that’s what makes it special. And things don’t just live here. They thrive. And it’s never by accident. I’ve read about what the winter gets like up here and Morag’s told me about the bitter cold of the wind, the driving rain and sleet, the snow that shuts whole villages in on themselves. But still the grass takes root in the rocky hills and it clings there and it lives. Anything that survives in a world of winters that barely see sunlight have truly earned the right to exist and that’s what makes them amazing, how much they have to fight just to be alive.

You would love all the heather here. It’s everywhere and it grows all year round. It’s tough and delicate at the same time, just like you were. It’s like the hills are covered in amethysts, sweet purple stones, still here in spite of everything. I wish I could pick the heather and weave it into a crown for you to wear. I’d set it on your head and you’d laugh and I’d kiss you and call you my queen. I’d tell you I loved you and we’d fall asleep in each other’s arms. The morning would be a thousand miles away and everything would be perfect forever. When I think of you from now on, I’ll see you like that in my head. Tough and delicate and beautiful, wearing a crown of stone flowers that grow in cold places.